Point/Counterpoint: Does college basketball reign supreme over the NBA?

Erik Rees

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Nathan Krauzlis

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March Madness games kicked off on March 17 this year. Every year, the tournament gives college athletes a chance to impress the world in hopes of playing in the NBA.

Point: Erik Rees

As yet another April draws near, it’s only fair that we take a step back to marvel at the most exhilarating time in the entirety of the sports calendar: NCAA’s March Madness.

Yes – not Wimbledon, spring’s NBA playoffs, or MLB’s fall classic. Not any all-star weekend, soccer match, or highly anticipated UFC fight. Neither the Kentucky Derby nor the Daytona 500 even come close. Oh, and definitely not the Masters. College basketball trumps all.

In fact, when it comes to basketball in general, the NBA pales in comparison to college hoops. Realistically, the NCAA is head and shoulders above its professional counterpart.

Sure, the athletes in collegiate sports aren’t all exactly world class. They’re not professionals, of course. Up until last year, college athletes couldn’t even be paid for their likenesses. In reality, most players that we scrutinize on the hardwood will likely end up being accountants – that’s what makes the game all the more entertaining. Yes, NBA players are far more talented than college ones; does that automatically make the game more interesting?

Without massive contracts and trades looming over their heads, college basketball enables players to give it their all. In college, players show more emotion than in any other league. Opposed to the NBA, where millionaire celebrity athletes loaf once they’ve locked up mega-deals, college features some of the highest effort and passion that you’ll see in any basketball environment, in every game – especially when potential draft stock is on the line.

The college schedule is an abbreviated version of the NBA’s. Instead of 82 grueling games, the NCAA hosts 30-40 game seasons that make every single matchup meaningful. From opening tip-off to the final buzzer, college athletes play with a tenacity that is unparalleled by the NBA.

On top of this, college crowds, headlined by exuberant student sections, exhibit team spirit in a way that fuels the already action-packed gameplay. Every fan in the crowd bleeds their team’s colors – they aren’t simply parents who won raffle tickets from their bosses.

At the same time, college basketball fosters more of a team game on both sides of the ball. Offenses are pass-first. Post-scoring is highly effective, and schemes aren’t focused solely on three-point shooting. On defense, zones are actually usable – a strategy that has been almost completely phased out in the NBA. Take recently retired Jim Boeheim, for example, who’s famous 2-3 zone won him nearly 1000 games during his tenure at Syracuse.

It’s quite simple; college basketball is a purer form of game.

Counterpoint: Nathaniel Krauzlis

Every March, the world becomes enamored with the small school from rural Dakota that ends up playing in the big dance. Of course, March Madness is one of the most exciting times in the world for fans of basketball, and fans of good television in general, but are the games themselves that impressive?

For experienced viewers of the biggest tournament in college basketball, they know that seeing some of the teams play early on means witnessing missed layups, bad shooting, and sloppy execution. For many of the teams playing in March Madness, they simply lack the talent that can be seen at higher levels of basketball. Often, programs are reliant on one or a couple star players, with everyone else standing around and trying not to mess up. However, in the NBA, every player has the capability of being a star, and watching NBA players battle it out is far more entertaining than the average college game.

Now, the NBA doesn’t quite offer a thrill like the first couple weekends of March Madness, but how much of people’s interest in the tournament actually lies in the product on the court? Once your team fizzles out early and your bracket is busted, it’s all too easy to tune out of the games with another year and another unsuccessful bracket going by. The real fun of the big dance is making a bracket, competing with your friends, and having the possibility of winning some money. The tournament keeps you on the edge of your seat when your championship pick is losing to a Cinderella story. This investment, though, doesn’t make the quality of games in college basketball better.

Simply put, NBA players are the best in the world, and there is a reason they are paid millions of dollars to play a game. They do shoot, dunk, and dribbling with the ball and dazzle fans of any sport. Any night, you have the possibility of seeing the best player in the entire world have a dominant game, and know that you just watched the most skillful form of basketball on the planet. The NBA’s lengthy playoff schedule limits the excitement from casual fans, and it can be easy to see why people look forward to the frenzy at the beginning of March Madness. But when the question is over which version of the game is truly better and you remove an intensely addicting tournament format from the mix, it’s clear to see that there is no other place to see the best and most impressive basketball in the world than the NBA.